Euro II Tattoo offers another side of tattoos

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118478021625002.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘Bob Lehmann (left) serves as guinea pig for Kara Cox’s demonstrations.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118478026527710.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘Kara Cox demonstrates the new equipment.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118478031425002.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘The new tools of the tattoo trade—sealed and ready to use.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118478036528492.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘Euro II carries more than 50,000 pieces of body jewelry, shown here in a glass display case.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118478040828268.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘Employees and friends play in the renovated waiting room.‘);

Tattoos have adorned the skin of many cultures across the globe for thousands of years. From tribesmen to sailors, gangsters to bikers, tattoos have remained largely in the counterculture.

The tattoo shops I’ve gotten work done at had an army of inksters, ready to slap on what you want. Their soldiers wore giant ear-stretching loops and metal rods through every conceivable place in their face. You sit in the chair, and bzzzzt, bzzzzt, you’re inked!

The Euro II Tattoo I visited at 5920 E. State St. offered a very different side of tattoos.

Maybe it was their new chairs or the open layout, but it felt more like any hair salon I’ve been in than a tattoo shop. The tattoo shops I’ve had work at consisted of doctor’s office-style private rooms. The couch and coffee table in the waiting room had back issues of Tattoo magazine littered about. Euro II has six chairs in one large room and only one private room that I saw. The east wall is filled with frames of designs, not the wall-hanging poster book. On their coffee table sit scrapbooks with pictures of customers to their store, not dog-eared publications from stores across the country. I plopped down on the couch and got an earful from Robert, one of the co-owners.

New legislation in Illinois means big health code changes for tattoo shops. Euro II uses one-time only tools for every piece of art. The packages are individually sealed, so there’s no risk of someone not operating the autoclave (sterilizing machine) properly. They proudly display their old tubes in a glass case above one station.

Robert said he hopes the new legislation will crack down on people who tattoo out of their houses, where safety isn’t as great a concern. He worked with the man who invented the new plastic tube technology at Jade Dragon in Chicago, one of the largest shops in the world. The only part that gets reused from customer to customer is the power supply.

Robert estimates 25 percent of their work is fixing someone else’s. He showed me an example of a griffin a gentleman had gotten done at another Rockford establishment. The “before” looked like a 20-year-old blue faded mess; the “after” exploded with color. He also estimated 60 percent of people who walk in the door don’t know what they want. Their artists will work with you to create a unique design. Combined, their artists have almost 70 years of experience. Even the new guy of three years has won a Miami Ink prize for his work.

If you’re looking for more ink or have questions about piercings, Euro II Tattoo should be your first stop. Their staff was incredibly warm and friendly. They don’t have a scary guy with tattoos on his face at the front counter. In fact, the most tattoos I saw were on someone who does piercings (and she’s way too nice to be scary). I look forward to the day when I can walk back in there, sit in one of those comfy adjustable chairs, and create my next work of art with the help of their award-winning staff.

Oh, and the next time someone asks you what you’re going to do with a tattoo when you’re 80, I enjoyed Carmen’s take: “I’ll be comparing them! By the time we’re 80, lots of people in the nursing homes will have them.”

Euro II Tattoo has two locations: 5920 E. State St., between Old Time Pottery and Oscar’s, (815) 391-8510; and 2219 Harrison Ave., behind CJ’s Haircuts, (815) 397-6300. For more information, visit

from the July 18-24, 2007, issue

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